Home School Legal Defense Association took part in several events during the July 15-18 Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom hosted by the U.S. State Department.
The right of parents to ensure that their children are educated in accordance with their sincere convictions is a core value of the modern human rights framework. It is explicitly recognized by numerous treaties, including some that the United States has signed, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Of course, the United States Constitution has been interpreted to recognize that the right of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children is fundamental.
HSLDA participated in the ministerial to bring attention to this right and to the reality that many parents around the world are prevented by their governments from exercising these rights.
HSLDA’s activities were formally recognized as part of the civil society program associated with the ministerial.
Rally outside the Embassy
HSLDA also organized a rally on July 15 at the Cuban Embassy, calling on Cuba to release jailed homeschooling families including Pastor and Mrs. Ramon and Adiyah Rigal and Golkis Almaguer. Homeschool families from as far away as Washington state participated in the event. Mario Leonart, a persecuted Cuban pastor, spoke at the rally.
HSLDA then hosted a discussion on homeschooling as a right of conscience at George Washington University the following day. Speakers included HSLDA President Mike Smith, HSLDA Senior Counsel Mike Donnelly, Global Liberty Alliance President Jason Poblete, USCIRF Commissioner (appearing in her personal capacity) Kristina Arriaga, Jenna Ellis, and persecuted German homeschooling parents Uwe and Hanne Romeike.
You can listen to an audio discussion here.
The event highlighted the stories of numerous families from Kenya, Norway, Sweden, and Germany, bringing attention to the importance of rights of conscience in education.
Arriaga affirmed the right of people to decide how their children should be educated as a right of conscience:
Ramon Rigal is a Christian. All he wants to do is raise his family in accordance with his deeply held convictions, and in Cuba that is not a possibility. In Cuba, when you go to school, the teachers will ask you eventually if you are religious. Do you believe in God? You will be ostracized for the entire duration of school. Chances are you will not go to college. Chances are you will not enter a career path that you choose. That’s it. You have no choices … when you go to church you are risking just walking into church and being seen by your neighbors.
Light in the Darkness
HSLDA seeks to provide a beacon of hope for homeschool freedom, especially for those in countries such as Germany and Sweden where families are persecuted for teaching their children at home.
People homeschool for many reasons. Some believe it is a religious duty; others simply feel it is the best way to educate their children.
HSLDA believes that the right of parents to decide how their children should be educated is a right of conscience. Families, not the state, are the first and primary educators of children. While the state may have some authority to regulate home education, it should not do so unnecessarily nor erect unreasonable obstacles in the way of parents who want to homeschool.
Hanne and Uwe Romeike recalled the psychological and emotional impact that leaving Germany and experiencing hardship has had on their faith. Hanne Romeike said:
I can only talk about Lydia especially—when we came [to the United States] she had nightmares and was scared that the principal would show up and take them away. So it has affected them … but also God intervened on our side. He fought for us. He protected us, and we had peace. We knew He would lead us and protect us, and we can only testify that He was our help. He was or refuge in those times, and I believe He has healed these wounds.
Elie Wiesel, author and Holocaust survivor, said, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
HSLDA is proud to fight for homeschool freedom on behalf of families like the Rigals, Romeikes and others. When we defend their freedom, we are also defending our freedom.
It was not many years ago that homeschooling families in the United States faced the same kinds of treatment at the hands of the authorities. Well—maybe not as bad as Cuba, but still, families were threatened, children taken, and parents prosecuted—just for homeschooling. History can repeat itself, and we must remain vigilant to protect our hard-won freedom.
We must fight for the rights of homeschooling families everywhere, because if we don’t, who will?